Food & Drink

Daily salutes to Detroit's black bartenders span this month at new hospitality blog

February 19, 2020, 7:51 PM by  Alan Stamm

Timing matters, so Brian Oliver Edwards and Raven Love (above) launched their blog Jan. 31 -- Black History Month eve. The name, Double Strained Collective, uses bartending lingo for a focus on professionals of color in Detroit's food and beverage community.   

The morning after their "who we are, why we're here" post, the creators kicked off a month-long project called "29 Days of Black Bartenders."

Each post at the well-designed site has portraits of a mixologist at work, with a Q&A interview about the bartender's background, why the profession is  appealing, drink preference and tips for newcomers. Edwards, 31, does the artful photography and Love, 27, is the stylish copywriter.

On-the-job portraits also are at the duo's three-week-old Instagram page. (Nine are below.) Bars represented so far include Seva Detroit, The Peterboro, Gray Ghost, Sugar House, Bad Luck Bar, Highlands Detroit, The Whisky Parlor and The Keep.

"After combing the streets of Detroit, hunting for the elusive but yet thriving community of black bartenders," Edwards posted Feb. 1 on Instagram, "we discovered so much raw beauty, power, emotion, hope, and joy. ... We salute your contributions, your passion, your drive and your commitment to excellence."

Edwards, who describes himself online as a Detroit photographer and cocktailer, is bar manager at Fort Street Galley downtown and a bartender at Barter Detroit in Hamtramck.

Love, a graduate of Renaissance High School and Wayne State University, works in Wixom as a marketer and recruiter. She had been a bartender at Toasted Oak Grill and Market in Novi for three and a half years.

The deftly chosen blog name, Double Strained Collective, has double significance.

Double consciousness

In addition to the obvious allusion to double-straining certain cocktails to catch fruit pulp or mint leaf bits, it's also a nod to W.E.B. Du Bois' explorations of "double consciousness." The influential sociologist first used that phrase in an 1897 Atlantic Monthly article to describe the internal conflict of being black in America. ("One ever feels his two-ness—an American, a Negro.") 

That context informs the new venture's mission statement: "Lifting voices, creating spaces and providing educational resources for marginalized persons in Metro Detroit's food and beverage community."

The scope stretches beyond bartenders to include chefs, servers, sommeliers and restaurant owners. The goal, its welcome post says, is to raise visibility "through pop-ups, workshops, open dialogues and other community-driven works and industry events."

Separately, Edwards shows that he's as creative with words as he is with a camera. A Feb. 1 mini-essay at his personal Instagram feed blends pride, purpose, passion and potential. Excerpts:

Today is a beautiful day for us. As humans, as bartenders and most importantly as black people.

When Raven Love took the time to school me on W.E.B. Du Bois' writings on the idea of "Double Consciousness," I connected with it in that way that sometimes is hard to put into words until someone else says them. And that deep pang of emotion in the year 2020 led to a powerful sense of motivation to do or say or manifest something meaningful for my peers and for my people. . . .

I remember saying to myself: "I do not have much, but I have a camera and I have love in my heart." And so with that love and this skill, we have been able to put together a beautiful and heartfelt expression for you and all to see.

Today we begin the unveiling of a project that has come to mean so much to all of us over the last few weeks. . . . Mixology is true poetry in motion and we are its orators, breathing life into recipes both new and old.

As bartenders we live at the sharpest edge of nightlife, where we create and condense the world's magic into beautiful packages. We are the gatekeepers to pleasure and the soothers of pain. We are the entertainment, the educators and the company after a long day.

So today and every day for this month that we set aside time to honor those who dedicated their lives to set the stages for our greatness as black people, we at Double Strained Collective want to honor you. We salute your contributions, your passion, your drive and your commitment to excellence. 

Below are nine of the site's featured prtofessionals, shared with permission. A new one is added daily through Feb. 29.

Mylikka Phelps has worked at Seva Detroit for two and a half years.

Andre Sykes is behind the rail at Bad Luck Bar and Sugar House.

Melanie Mack pours at Tangent Gallery and Menjos Entertainment Complex.

Asher Miller poses at Gray Ghost.

Nikkia Brooks serves guests at Fort Street Galley food court in the downtown business district.

John S. Neely is ready to take your order at Highlands Detroit.

Lisa Posey creates cocktails at Lou Lou's Lounge on Griswold Street, under Leila restaurant.

Sean Lovjoy is another smiling presence behind the bar at Fort Street Galley.

Siobahn Jones shows one of her blends at The Peterboro, off Cass Avenue in Midtown.


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